Fuse Electrical have been established in Hawthorn since 2004. Owner Iain Sibbald operates with a focus on practical innovation and using affordable solutions in smart ways.
Iain says the company makes significant savings by using free Microsoft Live calendar software to match the functionality of job management applications such as SimPro or iTrade.
In Microsoft Live, all of Fuse’s rostering, subcontractor resourcing and workflow is recorded on a master calendar that also ‘talks to’ individual Live accounts for each subcontractor.
“We’ve managed all our jobs and subbies through Microsoft Live since 2011 and I wouldn’t use anything else now,” says Iain.
Under Fuse’s methodology, each subcontractor creates their own Live account, which Fuse can access to co-ordinate with their cloud-based master calendar.
Fuse management have access to more than 30 subbies’ calendars and add incoming work straight to their own master calendar for job-matching with available resources.
“It’s free and incredibly simple – the customer calls and I input the details straight into Live from my phone, where I can see all subbies’ calendars,” says Iain.
“After the first phone call, I don’t have to do anything about it, that job will just happen.”
Once the work is done, the subcontractor closes out the job on Live, which gives Fuse a paperless jobflow system that equals SimPro functionality.
Iain says he chose Microsoft Live as it offered greater flexibility – and was a much cheaper option – than monthly subscription-based job management packages.
“We looked at SimPro and iTrade and others, but we found limitations, like the types of smartphones that could interface with the system,” he says.
Fuse, he says, relies on a network of subcontractors that might be booked for a couple of days a week or full-time weeks on major projects.
Adding each service provider to other job management systems, Iain says, meant additional subscription payments, even for subbies that might only be doing Fuse jobs a few days of their week.
“We looked at it and it just wasn’t cost-effective for our business,” he says. “Microsoft Live is completely scalable, you can manage your jobs with one guy on the road or 50.”
As Fuse bedded the system down in 2011, Iain says a few initial compliance issues cropped up where subcontractors needed training on booking and closing out jobs.
Fuse’s workarounds was to each Friday cut and paste subcontractors’ calendars into the master calendar to lock jobs in the system.
“It works like ‘job closed’ on SimPro as the subbie can no longer change the calendar,” he says. “And today we would have maybe one issue out of 100 jobs.”
Fuse run cloud-based MYOB, which is more cost-effective than a hard drive-based system; Iain says subscription fees are cheaper than software updates and that the cloud offers much easier access for the firm’s bookkeepers and off-site staff.
Fuse’s Microsoft Live-based workflow system has only one significant drawback from dedicated job management solutions – getting Live to share job data with accounting software such as MYOB or Xero is difficult.
Iain says it’s extremely difficult to create an Application Programming Interface (API) that gets Live talking to MYOB and that Fuse still issues ‘old school’ accounts and invoices, with Live data input by hand as ‘job cards’.
He also says that processing invoices by hand rather than issuing automated bills does, however, bring its benefits.
“Billing by hand means I can charge different rates for different customers, whereas if I was on some of the other, more formal systems, I’d be stuck with a fixed billing rate for all customers,” he says.
“When billing isn’t standard or automated, I can easily discount and build up customer relations wherever I see a need to.”
Find out more about Fuse Electrical by visiting their website